The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2017 (HR-390) which passed in the House without one dissenting voice and was supported by many relief agencies and social conservative organizations, has been transformed by Senator Corker into a Russia-bashing neocon bill that has little to do with genocide or with aid of any kind to victims of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Senator Corker, who authored the sanctions bill against Russia earlier this year, has crossed out every single line of the simple anti-genocide language in HR- 390 authored by Congressman Chris Smith. He has transformed it into legislation to establish a worthless commission called the “Syria Study Group.” This “group” is tasked with furnishing a final report by November 30th, 2018.
Corker’s “substitute language” is more than four times longer than the original bill.
Senator Corker’s version of HR-390 would direct the “Syria Study Group” to “review the current situation with respect to the United States military and diplomatic strategy in Syria, including a review of current United States objectives in Syria and the desired end state in Syria.”
The Group is then to “develop recommendations on a military and diplomatic strategy for the United States with respect to the conflict in Syria.”
This “Study Group” will have eight members appointed for the “life of the group.” The selection process could not be more complex, and is designed to slow down the establishment of the group and to hold up any true investigation that would bring about results. Here are the required members:
One member appointed by the chair of the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate; One member appointed by the ranking minority member of the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate; One member appointed by the chair of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate; One member appointed by the ranking minority member of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate; One member appointed by the chair of the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives; One member appointed by the ranking minority member of the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives; One member appointed by the chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives; One member appointed by the ranking minority member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives.Then of course there are co-chairs, plus the involvement of appointed advisors or “liaisons.”The Corker language states that the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Director of National Intelligence must each designate an officer as a “liaison” to the Group.
This will be a full-time endeavor for the assigned members, and office space will be required as well as communications equipment. Of course, “fact finding tours” will be needed, probably to interview “refugees” now living on the French Riviera. And all of this will be done with smoke and mirrors, since the bill requests no funding for the “Syria Study Group” or any other aspect of the work mentioned in the new language proposed by Senator Corker for HR-390.
The final section – Section 13 states: “No additional funds are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act. This Act shall be carried out using amounts otherwise authorized and appropriated.” In other words, money – lots of it-- must be taken out of other government entities’ existing budgets.
The original purpose of HR-390 author Congressman Chris Smith was to bring aid as quickly as possible to the victims of genocide perpetrated by the Islamic State. It required no additional aid, just redirected some existing aid to serve the victims of genocide first. Also, the original text of HR-390 would place the victims of genocide in the front of the line for immigration to the United States – something that would cost no additional money, just change procedures in the existing system. Under the Obama Administration, Sunni Muslims from Syria were at the front of the line, with Christians rarely included.
Most of the new language substituted by Senator Corker concerns the Syrian government, Russia and Iran -- with little mention of the victims of genocide which include Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims. The Shia Muslims are now totally excluded because of Senator Corker’s love for Saudi Arabia and to honor the Kingdom’s desire to eradicate Shia Islam from the face of the Earth. Iran, being Shia Muslim, is of course singled out for blame in a civil war actually begun with Saudi Arabian cash and weapons.
The only mention of humanitarian assistance comes in Section 7, subsection c which states:
“The Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development are authorized to provide assistance, including financial and technical assistance as necessary and appropriate, to support entities described in subsection (a)(4) that the Secretary and the Administrator determine have access, and are capable of effectively managing and delivering such assistance, to the individuals and groups described in paragraphs (1) and (2) of such subsection.”
Note the last line which states that the groups and individuals are described in paragraphs (1) and (2). Those are to be determined by the Secretary of State with the help of the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of National Intelligence among others.
In earlier sections of the bill most of the blame for the ongoing genocide in Syria and Iraq is cast upon Russia which has only been involved for the last two years of the six-year civil war, and has not been involved in Iraq at all. In Section 3 (a) 7 the Corker version of the bill states as fact the “Widespread and systematic attacks on civilians, schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure, in violation of international humanitarian law, continue in Syria, in particular as a result of the actions of the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian supporters.” These accusations are in fact not proven at all.
Throughout Section 3 and other sections of the new text of HR-390 most atrocities in Syria are blamed on the current secular government and their allies including Russia and Iran. Never mentioned is the funding of the original Sunni Muslim uprising against the secular government of Syria by Saudi Arabia. At no point in the new HR-390- text are the arms supplied by Saudi Arabia mentioned. The purpose of the Saudi arms supplies (which were facilitated by the CIA) to the Sunni rebels in Syria had the goal of establishing a Sharia compliant Islamic State not much that different than the one proposed by the terror group Islamic State (ISIS).
The original purpose of HR-390 was to aid the victims of Islamic State genocide … but Senator Corker’s version of the bill, probably with the input of Senators McCain and Graham, downplays aid and focuses on military and economic measures. In the Corker version, the Defense Department and the national security agencies play a large part.
This bill is part of the ongoing anti-Russia hysteria on Capitol Hill, with the added anti-Iran hysteria being pumped out of the White House. Some of the conclusions and assumptions in the bill are baseless. The bill for example presumes that the prison system run by the Assad government somehow led to the genocide of Christians. In reality, the greatest number of ISIS fighters in Syria have never been Syrian; Saudi Arabia is the largest supplier of jihadi fighters; the number two supplier of fighters is Jordan.
The “revolt” against Syria’s secular government is about religion, not repression. The Sunni Muslims of Syria, aided by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim Gulf States, sought to establish a Sharia compliant Syria that would have oppressed Christians and other minorities.
HR-390 is no longer an anti-Genocide bill … it has become an anti-Syrian government, anti- Russia, anti-Iran bill that actually downplays the Islamic State. The Islamic State (ISIS) becomes just a sideshow in this new bill, something for a commission to look at while condemning Syria, Iran and Russia.
As this new commission or “Study Group” chugs along eating up money over the next couple of years the United States will continue to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia to drop on schools, hospitals and funerals in Yemen. The disgusting human rights record of Saudi Arabia will be ignored in favor of arms sales, despite the fact that the royal family of Saudi Arabia makes President Bashir Assad of Syria look like someone who should receive an award for humanitarianism.
Reprinted with author's permission.
William Murray is Chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition